NOMINATIONS FOR THE first Asian Restaurant and Takeaway Awards (ARTA) opened last week at the House of Lords, with various dignitaries, many of Asian heritage, present to show their support.
The launch was hosted by former Tower Hamlets councillor – and former Deputy to the then Leader, John Biggs! – Baronness Pola Uddin. Rushanara Ali MP and Rupa Huq MP, both well known to the Bangladeshi community, attended.
They were joined by two Conservative MPs: Paul Scully, MP for leafy Sutton & Cheam, and Lucy Frazer, MP for rural South East Cambridgeshire. Mr Scully is proud to have Burmese heritage and made his first visit to Myanmar in February 2016. He is known for his strong support for Brexit. Ms Frazer has a Jewish heritage and is a qualified barrister – and campaigned for “remain” in the Brexit referendum.
A number of other dignitaries were also present – including former England cricketer and legendary fast bowler Devon Malcolm.
The ARTA Awards will be presented to the lucky winners at a ceremony in London on 30th September at InterContinental London, the O2 – where ARTA will be aiming to honour the best chefs and service staff who display a mix of high level culinary skills with great artistry.
Last week all eyes were on the opening of nominations. The ARTA awards are powered by the online booking system ChefOnline.com – with its 100,000 active customers, who will be encouraged to nominate their favourite eating houses.
Nominations will be made online and grouped into 15 regions across the UK and Ireland. The top 30 eateries in each region will then be assessed. This will be followed by regional cook-offs to establish the region’s top ten restaurants, which will then be invited to the Grand Finale.
ARTA has estimated that the Asian catering industry is valued at around £5 billion – but it is threatened by a downturn. They attribute the decline to a shortage of talented chefs and other staff which has arisen because of immigration restrictions on workers from overseas coming to the UK and a lack of interest in restaurant work from UK-born youth. They hope to counter this by running a programme of youth engagement based on creating networking opportunities which could draw youngsters into catering careers.
What they said at the launch
ARTA Founder Salik Mohammed Munim said, “It is our maiden journey and we are hopeful that, with everyone’s help and support, we can really engage the industry, truly recognising the people that work hard day and night, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Our mission is not only about an award, our mission is to introduce the industry to the regional colleges where we have staff shortages. We’re hopeful that we can get the colleges engaged with the industry. If we work together, it can help the industry by engaging youngsters with the Asian restaurant trade.”
Rushanara Ali MP said, “I want to start by congratulating everyone who has brought together this event. These are the inaugural Asian Restaurant and Takeaway Awards and the nominations are coming from the consumers, customers – that’s fantastic! It’s the tireless, dogged work that has built a phenomenal industry and I know that you all, in different ways, have contributed to making sure that that contribution is significant for our economy and for jobs at a time when there are huge challenges. With uncertainty around Brexit it’s really important that, here in Parliament, you have a strong voice among members of the House of Lords as well as members of the House of Commons, so our commitment is that we make sure we advocate and champion the things that matter to you.”
Paul Scully MP said, “The curry industry is an industry that is so dear to my heart because I see the 11,000 or so entrepreneurs around the country that have done so well over the years and the people that you employ and that’s why, when I was asked to support ARTA, I was really happy to do so because you’re offering something different. What it’s doing is actually looking at the industry in a really holistic way, bringing in customers, bringing in supporters to nominate restaurants, nominate people, nominate the skilled people that you have across the industry, not just in the kitchen itself and that’s really important. I think it’s going to be the FA Cup of curry awards. I know it will be a really prestigious thing for people to be holding up that cup, cherishing for that year that they are the very best in the country. It is right that we celebrate the very best and inspire the next generation to make sure that this industry not only survives but thrives.”
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